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How to Create a Successful Leadership Program in the Construction Industry


5 August 2014

The construction industry needs up-skilling in negotiation and cooperative practices, and supervisory and management skills according to the National Centre Vocational Education Research (2008). Also, a positive safety culture requires collaboration, relationship building and supporting behaviours.

This blog looks at a leadership program in the construction industry that addresses these findings, taking into account these four leadership characteristics that impact change implementation and innovation in the workplace:

• Communication
• Motivation
• Inclusiveness
• Coaching.

Case study

Let’s take a look at an example of a leadership program for an engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) client.

The employee relations and industrial relations (ER/IR) processes experienced three changes of legislation during the different phases of the project.

The EPCM contractor adopted a strategy of sub-contractors managing their own employees under their own arrangements. This involved developing a minimum number of rules and policies needed to legally protect the project to create order in the work force, and to enable the sub-contractors responsibility for their own people.

A critical initiative of the leadership program was to prevent subcultures, outside those expected, from developing.

The leadership program was designed to ensure:

• Consistent values, language and behaviour
• Involvement in the program by all levels of supervision, from senior management to leading hand
• Formal process to promote listening and understanding the capabilities of others in similar positions
• Support and involvement from the client
• Knowledge and ideas sharing by all individuals involved in the program.

Key success factors for leadership programs

A leadership program cannot just tell, it must influence as well as create an environment for listening and psychological safety to question and challenge.

The complexity of the project construction environment will not create a “one size fits all” outcome; flexibility and discretion within clear boundaries are required, as are on-going support and review.

Any leadership program needs to encourage individuals to participate and share knowledge.

As a culture of sharing emerges, there is greater exchange of information about what exists, what works, what practices have major problems, and what solutions have been successfully applied.

Getting employees to share knowledge willingly requires a change in mind-set, away from concern for individual success and towards group success.

Guest blogger Andrew Roberts specialises in operational risk management, OHS, HR and ER, leadership and behavioural programs, facilitation, risk management, mediation and professional learning. His interpersonal skills allow for the resolution of complex problems with minimal fuss and disruption.

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